Sir Clive Woodward: Owen Farrell decision an ‘opportunity’ for ‘clueless’ RFU to finally step up

Colin Newboult
Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward in 2023.

Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward in 2023.

Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward believes that the Rugby Football Union can look at the Owen Farrell situation as an “opportunity” to help other players who are dealing with similar issues.

The Red Rose captain made the shock call on Wednesday to step back from Test rugby and make himself unavailable for the 2024 Six Nations.

Farrell and his family’s ‘mental well-being’ was the reason for the decision to take a break from the international arena.

Many people, including Woodward himself, have suggested the constant criticism the playmaker has received has led to this position.

Inspire a different path

Woodward therefore hopes that the RFU can put a plan in place to help all England players who are struggling with their mental health.

“I hope Farrell sets the tone and inspires new thinking in this area. Why is taking a sabbatical not more common?” he wrote in his Daily Mail column.

“Let’s be brutally honest. There is nobody at the RFU who would have a clue how to help or advise Farrell when he needs it most. No doubt they will blame others — especially the media — and create another nameless committee to investigate and put forward their thoughts with zero accountability.

“Meanwhile, Farrell will probably be left to work it out for himself. That is so wrong. The RFU and other international sides should look at Farrell’s situation with real concern but as an opportunity to better support players.

“The world’s best businesses build sabbaticals into their HR processes as paid leave. Why not rugby?”

Farrell’s potential return

It is currently uncertain when, or even if, Farrell play will again international rugby again, but Woodward sincerely hopes that he returns to the highest level.

“I’ve always been a huge believer in, and a backer of, Farrell. I have maintained he should be England’s leading light, but always from number 10 and not 12,” he added.

“He is going to continue to play for his beloved Saracens and I really hope this is not the last we’ve seen of him at Test level. Here’s hoping the break does him the world of good and he can return to the international game when he’s good and ready.

“Andy Farrell is hotly tipped to lead the 2025 Lions to Australia. Oh, how I would love to see his son make one more tour alongside his father.”

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